Padilla’s lawyer: Indict my client!

This is pretty Orwellian. The government says it has the right to hold accused “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla without charge as an “enemy combatant” for the “duration of the conflict.” The “conflict” in question is a completely open-ended undeclared war which the administration says could last generations. And the “battlefield” in question is defined as the entire United States. Padilla’s lawyer is actually in the ironic position of demanding that his client be indicted! Now, nobody is supposed to care about this because Padilla is just a jihad freak. But your habeas corpus rights are evidently not worth the paper they’re written on anymore. From Bloomberg, July 19:

Padilla Asks Court to Reject Indefinite Detention by Military

July 19 — The Bush administration asked a federal appeals court to overturn a ruling that could free Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen held in a military prison without charge for the past three years as an enemy combatant in the war on terrorism.

“I don’t think the law of war limits the government to capture only on the battlefield,” U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement told the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, today. Asked by the court whether he considers the U.S. a battlefield in the war on terror, he said, “That is our position.”

Padilla, a Muslim convert and former gang member, was arrested in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in May 2002. He was designated an enemy combatant by President George W. Bush one month later and sent to a Navy jail in South Carolina.

The case is a test of the government’s power to detain U.S. citizens without trial and may return to the Supreme Court whatever the three-judge appeals court decides, lawyers for both sides said. The Bush administration says such detentions are necessary to prevent terrorism in the U.S.

A federal judge ruled in March that the U.S. must charge Padilla with a crime or release him within 45 days. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the following day that the U.S. has the right to hold suspects in the war on terrorism “for the duration of hostilities.”

The Wrong Court

Prior to the judge’s ruling in Padilla’s favor, the Supreme Court last year reviewed his case but stopped short of ruling on the merits because, it said, he had filed his bid for release in the wrong federal court. Last month, the justices denied Padilla’s request for them to step into the case before the appeals court issues a ruling.

Andrew Patel, a lawyer for Padilla, said today he isn’t asking for his client to be set free.

“I may be the first lawyer in the history of this court to stand here and say I’m asking for my client to be indicted,” Patel said.

Today’s hearing lasted about 90 minutes and the court gave no indication of when it may rule. Padilla is being held in solitary confinement and wasn’t in the courtroom.

Padilla, the only U.S. citizen now being held as an enemy combatant, trained with an explosives expert in Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan and was assigned to blow up U.S. apartment buildings with natural gas, according to the Justice Department.

Patel told the court today that Padilla, as a U.S. citizen, is entitled to have his case heard in a civilian, not military, court.

Enemy Combatants

The Bush administration says enemy combatants may be held until the war on terrorism is over or until military authorities decide on a case-by-case basis it is safe to release them. The policy covers captured fighters who aren’t treated as traditional prisoners of war or who haven’t been charged with a crime.

The only other U.S. citizen held as an enemy combatant since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Yaser Esam Hamdi, was released and flown to Saudi Arabia last year. The Supreme Court ruled that Hamdi could challenge his detention in U.S. courts.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Washington last week overturned a federal judge’s ruling that halted the military trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen, who is being held as an enemy combatant. Congress authorized military tribunals when it approved of the use of force after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the court ruled.

The appeals court also said the Geneva Convention, which governs treatment of prisoners of wars, isn’t enforceable in U.S. courts and doesn’t apply to al-Qaeda members.

Hamdan was a bodyguard and driver for bin Laden from 1996 to 2001, the Justice Department said. He was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and is being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

See also

See our last post on the Padilla case.